Wharf in bid to get dumped BBC signal
BBC World Service Television, which will be dropped from STAR TV next month, could reappear on Hong Kong screens via Wharf Cable as early as May.
Wharf Cable managing director Stephen Ng Tin-hoi said yesterday the network had approached the BBC at the end of last week about carrying four hours of news a day on a new international channel.
''The initial response from the BBC was favourable, although it is too early to make an announcement yet,'' he said.
Wharf had proposed four prime-time hours of BBC - providing breakfast news, lunchtime news, evening news and a late-night news programme - to be scheduled into the planned international channel, which will also carry news and entertainment programmes from Korea, France, the United States and China.
Mr Ng said he had made the proposal as soon as he heard last week that, after months of wrangling, STAR TV was dropping the BBC channel from its northern beam - covering Hong Kong, China, Korea and Japan - in favour of a pay-channel for Chinese-language movies.
Mr Ng said the decision on whether to extend BBC coverage to 24 hours a day on its own channel would be made by both parties later.
''At the moment we have a limit on how many channels we can have - and all 20 are just about spoken for,'' he said.
''But when the fibre-optic network is in place next year, then we could certainly think of putting the BBC on 24 hours a day.'' The international channel is scheduled to be launched on May 23, Mr Ng said.
A BBC spokesman in London said last night it was too early to say whether it would take up the Wharf offer.
''We have been talking to a lot of people since last week, including Wharf, but also including satellite companies; we will make an announcement in due course,'' he said.
He said that under the terms of settlement with STAR, the BBC signal would continue to go to Hong Kong via an Intelsat distribution satellite for the next two years, so it would be easy for Wharf or for any other network to access and distribute it.
About 40,000 Hong Kong households are paying the subscription to Hong Kong's first pay-TV service. Most are in Kowloon and the New Territories, although Hong Kong Island residents are beginning to subscribe.
According to operations director David Keefe the latest marketing push was in Taikoo Shing estates, and led to about three in 10 households signing up for the $198-a-month service.
The next big marketing campaigns would be in Whampoa Gardens and Hunghom, as well as in Repulse Bay and Ap Lei Chau, which could pick up signals from a transmitter on Brick Hill, near Ocean Park.
''By the end of this month, 90 per cent of Hong Kong Island will have the capacity to receive the signal; after that it's just a matter of wiring up the buildings and getting people to subscribe,'' Mr Keefe said.
He said Discovery Bay and Pokfulam were among the last residential areas to get the signal - they were not scheduled to come on line until autumn.
because installing the relevant transmitter was problematic.